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The same old war it’s always been


This is correct:

I particularly enjoy the “I’m not a NIMBY, I just oppose the construction of new housing anywhere for any reason” Marin rich person pas de deux:

Before we go any further, I am obligated to note that Susan Kirsch does not appreciate the word “NIMBY.” She describes herself as someone who helps communities “feel empowered and self-reliant.” She has, nevertheless, made peace with the term.

After all, this is a person who once wrote an op-ed that said the removal of five trees in Mill Valley sent “existential messages to our fellow citizens of the world.” Who has fought for two decades to prevent a developer from putting 20 condominiums on a hill at the end of her street.

Ms. Kirsch’s nonprofit, Catalysts for Local Control, opposes just about every law the California legislature puts forward to address the state’s housing and homelessness problem. In Zoom meetings with her members, she describes lawmakers’ intentions in dark terms and drives the message home with graphics that say things like, “Our homes and cities are under attack.”

It might seem kitschy if it weren’t so effective. Susan Kirsch was 60 when she began her fight against the condos down the block. Eighteen years later, the hill remains dirt.

Note here is that none of the usual excuses about “displacement” or whatever are viable here. She opposes land that is currently being used for literally nothing to be used for desperately needed multifamily housing.

And the impulses behind this form of “local control” are at bottom the same as the “local control” used by Alabama school boards in 1958:

Stories like that, one project fight after another, form a larger story about how the state and nation dug themselves into a growing housing shortage. The impulse behind NIMBYism is timeless: People who already live somewhere have always raised objections to newcomers. The feeling applies to renters as well as homeowners, crosses boundaries of race, class, and culture, and has been a part of urban life for centuries.

But California has gone further than most in empowering it. And until fairly recently, this was seen as something to be proud of.

There’s an additional problem here of defining “environmentalism” in personal aesthetic terms, as opposed to what’s, how shall I put this, best for the environment. Quite simply, it is a moral imperative on multiple axes to completely crush NIMBYs and the counter-majoritarian mechanisms that empower them.

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